Over the years, hip-hop music has introduced a number of words and phrases to the masses. It is difficult to think of any in recent years that have caught on as quickly and as widely as “no homo!”

The phrase was coined by either Cam’ron or his protégé Juelz Santana and is to be uttered either before or after speaking something that could potentially be interpreted as homoerotic. It serves as a disclaimer that essentially announces, “In case that sounded gay, I want you to know that I am not gay.”

While many rappers have used the phrase, Lil’ Wayne provides the most illustrations. For example, he raps “I love my ni**as, no homo” and “I switch it up like Dennis Rodman’s dome, no homo.” Wayne goes further than most and even uses the phrase when no intelligent person would mistake what he has said to be homoerotic, such as his claim that he gets “money out the a**, no homo” and that New Orleans has his back “no homo.”

Hip-hop culture has received much backlash over the use of this phrase. Some claim that the phrase itself is hateful because it implies that being homosexual is negative.

This is not true. It is not hateful for a heterosexual to desire to be identified as a heterosexual and not a homosexual any more than it is hateful for a Californian to desire to be identified as a Californian and not an Oregonian. For someone to explicitly deny being a homosexual does not necessitate that they perceive homosexuality as negative but simply that they perceive homosexuality as foreign to their personal identity and experience.

That said, it is no coincidence that this phrase was born and thrives in hip-hop culture. In this particular context, someone saying “no homo” may be more than a reflection of their desire to be perceived accurately. It may also be a reflection of their desire to distance themselves as far as possible from what, in hip-hop culture, is the worst of all conceivable sins.

The idea that homosexual desires and behavior are the evils of all evils is so deeply woven into the threads of hip-hop culture that it is difficult to narrow down a list of examples. Perhaps the most obvious evidence is the history of battles between rivaling rappers. Rappers can and do say all sorts of things about their opponent, but when they most desire to humiliate their enemy they always follow the same strategy: call him gay.

In hip-hop culture, there is simply no more deadly blow to deal. Consider the following examples: When Common was feuding with Ice Cube, he won the battle with his song, “The Bi**h in Yoo,” claiming that Cube was a “bi**h ni**a.” As Nas and Jay Z were in the midst of their four-year-long battle, they both resorted to the same strategy. Jay called Nas the “f*g model for Karl Kani/Esco ads,” while Nas renamed Jay Z “Gay Z” and “H to the Omo” and declared him to be a “d**k riding fa**ot.”

Nas employed similar language in his beef with Cormega and Mobb Deep, saying that “Mega ain’t the only fa**ot in my hood, dummies.” This, of course, was nothing new. After Ice Cube separated from N.W.A., his second solo album included the song “No Vaseline,” wherein he quite graphically accused Eazy-E of turning “fa**ot” and committing homosexual acts with the members of N.W.A. and their manager, Jerry Heller.

As that group was dismantled Eazy-E, followed suit and portrayed his now nemesis Dr. Dre as a “she thing,” just as 2Pac would respond to Dre’s exit from Death Row Records with the accusation that he is as “fruity as this Alize.” Clearly, hip-hop has a deeply rooted belief that homosexuality is the sin above all sins and shares Big Daddy Kane’s sentiment that “the Big Daddy law is anti-fa**ot.”

As one who had much of my worldview shaped by hip-hop culture, I shared this conviction for many years and believed that there was no greater evil than homosexuality and that homosexuals should be avoided for that very reason. I now recognize that I believed a lie — a terrible lie.

To be sure, the Bible strongly and consistently disapproves of homosexual intercourse (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:18-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9). But while God opposes homosexual intercourse, he does not oppose homosexuality for the same reasons or in the same way that hip-hop does. There are several especially important differences.

First, hip hop opposes homosexuality because hip hop perceives it as the worst of all sins. God does not. God opposes homosexual intercourse because it is one of countless sins that offend him.

Those who want to present homosexuality as the sin above all sins usually point to God’s words in Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” They use this verse to show that there is something especially offensive to God about homosexual intercourse — it is an abomination.

This is true. But it is equally true of a number of other attitudes and behaviors. For instance, all of the following are described as “abominable:” The devious person (Proverbs 3:32), wickedness (Proverbs 8:7), false worship (Proverbs 15:18), the thoughts of the wicked (Proverbs 15:26), anyone who is arrogant in heart (Proverbs 16:5), the unjust (Proverbs 17:15), the prayers of the wicked (Proverbs 28:9) and the worship of false gods (Jeremiah 16:18). Proverbs 6:16-19 alone lists seven things that are an abomination to God, “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

Genesis 1:26 reveals that God created human beings to reflect his image. As such, he hates anything that distorts his personal nature or his creative intent. That certainly includes the homosexual behavior that hip-hop despises, but it also includes dozens of other things that hip-hop celebrates.

The irony of this is captured in the July/August 2011 issue of hip-hop magazine XXL, wherein rapper Beanie Sigel says of homosexuality, “I don’t like to be around that. For any people who look into it any other way, go into the Bible and look up the story.”

It was actually difficult for me to type that quote without laughing out loud at its blatant hypocrisy.Beanie, like many within hip-hop, wants to use the Bible to endorse his anti-homosexual views but completely ignores the fact that the Bible is equally opposed to most of the attitudes and behaviors he has spent his career promoting. As seen above, God hates what hip hop loves just as much as he hates the homosexual behavior that hip hop hates.

Second, hip hop considers both homosexual behavior and homosexual attraction to be equally damning. God does not. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10 each condemn same-sex intercourse, not same-sex attraction, as the offense God will judge. The same is true of Romans 1:26-27 which reads, “Because of this [rejection of the true God], God gave them [those who deny him worship] over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

The phrases “shameful lusts” and “inflamed with lust” do not condemn same-sex attraction any more than Jesus’ teaching against looking “at a woman lustfully” in Matthew 5:28 condemns opposite-sex attraction. Rather, these phrases condemn the unchecked sinful desire to consummate that attraction in sexually immoral behavior, whether in physical reality (as in Romans 1:26-27) or in mental fantasy (as in Matthew 5:28). While those with same-sex attraction are excluded from the hip-hop community on the basis of that attraction, they are not excluded from God’s community on the basis of that attraction.

Instead, God calls both those with same-sex attraction and those with opposite-sex attraction to the same response: To worship him. One way this worship must be expressed is to “honor God with your bodies” and “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). This is possible because of the Holy Spirit, who empowers God’s people to resist those internal desires that are not consistent with God’s personal nature or creative intent (Galatians 5:16). Any and all who do this are a part of God’s family, irrespective of the particular sex they find themselves most naturally attracted to.

Third, hip hop calls its followers to avoid homosexuals altogether. God does not. As quoted above, Beanie Sigel doesn’t “like to be around that.” Similarly, 50 Cent told Playboy, “I don’t like gay people around me” and Wu-Tang original Raekwon said, “I can’t stand fu**in’ homos … get the f**k away from me.”

This is partially because they see homosexuality as a sin greater than any others. As we have already seen, God sees homosexual intercourse as one sin among many others — all of which are terribly offensive to him. To avoid people who engage in behaviors that offend God would be impossible. “In that case,” the Apostle Paul writes, “you would have to leave this world” (1 Corinthians 5:10).

Not only is it impossible to avoid people who engage in behaviors that offend God, it is also inconsistent with God’s character. When the religious leaders criticized Jesus for being a “friend of sinners,” Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:30-31). Jesus intentionally spent time with people who practiced all sorts of behavioral sins and those who love him and follow him will do the same (John 20:21).

Jesus did not do this because he approved of the behavior but because he wanted the people to stop looking for fulfillment in their sin, find true fulfillment in him and be restored to a right relationship with God. He came, as he explained to a well-known sinner named Zacchaeus, “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). For that I am exceedingly grateful as I, a sinner, would otherwise never have known him.

Homosexuality is not what hip hop taught me to believe it is. Homosexual intercourse is a sin God hates because it contradicts his personal nature and creative intent. But it is not alone on that list and it is not the worst of all sins.

The worst of all sins is perpetual unbelief, which hip-hop culture at large encourages. This, and not homosexuality, is the enemy the Christian Church is called to attack with a vengeance by proclaiming the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done (Mark 16:15). It is not homosexuality, lying, evil intentions, arrogance or any other detestable sin that ultimately keeps us from God.

These things are the result of our separation from God. What keeps us from God is unbelief. Thankfully, the invitation to believe is open to all of us as long as we have breath in our lungs: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36).